Accounting, the start of the 2023-2024 financial year for the Union Bordeaux-Bègles is neither bad nor excellent. Three wins in three home matches, three defeats in three away matches. “We always say that a season is successful away from home. For the moment, we have not succeeded in our trips,” laments Maxime Lucu at the microphone of TV7. Sunday in La Rochelle (9:05 p.m.), a first success far from the Gironde bases would really launch the season.
The summer staff change, with the arrival of Yannick Bru and his team, did not favor a cannonball departure. As well as the absence of many internationals who left to play the World Cup. The UBB notably provided six of the thirty-three players in the French XV, the second highest contingent after Stade Toulouse.
But since Monday, and the return of Argentine second-row Guido Petti, the Bordeaux squad is complete. And therefore has no choice but to meet expectations. The names at the back are enough to make any other team in the Top 14 salivate. In addition to Madosh Tambwe, Romain Buros and the hopefuls Nicolas Depoortère and Pablo Uberti, the team has recorded the returns of its starting hinge Matthieu Jalibert-Maxime Lucu, from the center Yoram Moefana, from the revelation of the Blues at the Louis Bielle-Biarrey wing… and from Damian Penaud. After nine seasons in Clermont, the 27-year-old winger came to try his luck under the Gironde sun.
Also read: XV of France: “magical”, “true thoroughbred”… The mad race for records by the phenomenon Damian Penaud
It was under the flood, in Pau, that the new kid played his first minutes last Saturday. Faced with the Béarnais in great form at the start of the championship, his team took to the water. The “galactic” three-quarter line was weaned from balloons, short-circuited by indiscipline and loss of balls in the scoring zone. “We understand the wait. But when we talk to you about this armada and the weather is like this today, it is of little use if we are not present in the conquest, in the discipline and the forward play. », regretted Maxime Lucu after the meeting.
Same story from his manager, Yannick Bru: “Despite the talent that was sometimes expressed, we lacked control over too many things. We were too impatient, too imprecise.” This zero-point defeat, like that in Toulouse two weeks before, raises fears of too great an imbalance in the squad. The Bordeaux leaders, however, recruited cleverly up front, with the arrivals of experienced Adam Coleman (32 years old), Tevita Tatafu (27 years old) and Pete Samu (31 years old). Time will tell if these are just early season hesitations, linked to adaptation. Or if the problem is deeper.
Sunday, the trip to Charente-Maritime is a real test, against a team which has also had a complicated first few weeks. But like Bordeaux-Bègles, Stade Rochelais has brought back internationals, including Uini Atonio, Levani Botia, Antoine Hastoy and Jonathan Danty. And the Maritimes have just beaten Aviron Bayonnais (18-15) by showing great strength of character. “They are gaining momentum,” confirms Maxime Lucu. There has been a strong rivalry for certain years, we know that it is a difficult fortress to take. It’s a special week.”
Last year, two days before Christmas, the Bordelais won at Marcel-Deflandre (8-12). A first away success that Matthieu Jalibert and his teammates had built in a minimalist way, on foot. Proof that rugby goes well, sometimes, in sparkling three-quarters.